Concerto for Soprano Saxophone David Garner
World Premiere April 17, 2014, with Susan Fancher and Duke University Wind Symphony
As in many of my compositions, the Soprano Sax Concerto draws on traditional music as a starting point for a tapestry of quotation and experimentation. The musical building blocks for this concerto are taken from bagpipe traditions from around the world: Irish Uilleann piping, Scottish Highland piping and a curious form of bagpiping from Rajasthan, India. During the British occupation of India the instrument of the British army, the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipes, was spread across the country and eventually was absorbed into traditional Rajasthani music, essentially performing traditional songs and dances on the Scottish instrument! In addition to these fundamental influences, references to other musical genres, styles, and traditions also pop up throughout the piece.
The first movement revolves around an Irish Uilleann pipe performance of a jig titled Condon’s Frolics. The movement starts and ends with material that obliquely references the tune by passing the melody around the ensemble. After the opening, a clear version of the tune emerges and repeats while the ensemble builds around the soloist, eventually overshadowing the sax. In the second movement the soloist performs a slowly unfolding languid melody that nods to traditional music from Rajasthan. The final movement draws on a Scottish Piobaireachd (pronounced PEE-brock) titled Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament as the musical material. The tune is heard throughout the movement in various forms sometimes clear and often transformed, with the most “bagpipe-like” version heard in the slower middle section of the movement. In the final minutes of the concerto the tune is pushed into new territory and, after a cadenza interruption, ends joyously.